Editor’s Note: In the original version of this story, N.C. Grange Mutual Insurance Company was named as the grant recipient for Farmers Appreciation Day, as listed in the draft version of the proposed budget. The final state budget has since been corrected by the General Assembly to say the nonprofit corporation North Carolina State Grange, Inc. will be the recipient of the grant. N.C. Grange Mutual Insurance Company has no relation to NC Farmers Appreciation Day.
RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Autopsy funding, block grants for mental health services, money for roads and storm water drainage. They are all very specific projects in the North Carolina state budget that make their way into very specific communities. Some might be expected, others like NASCAR are perhaps debatable.
“This is a classic example of bringing home the bacon. Member projects is a code word. Pork member projects are the ones that particular members ask for because they will benefit their district or their community without really being of substantial benefit for the entire state of North Carolina,” said Mitch Kokai with the conservative John Locke Foundation.
Buried in the more than 600 pages you’ll find funds for Farmers Appreciation Day. A $250,000 agriculture grant will be awarded to the nonprofit corporation North Carolina State Grange, Inc. to promote what will be a first annual event.
There’s another provision that increases law enforcement protection for current Lt. Governor Mark Robinson who’s also running for governor.
“They’re adding to his security detail through December 31st, 2024, which will be when his term ends as Lieutenant governor. It doesn’t specify whether there have been any threats or anything like that that have sort of precipitated that budget item,” said Billman.
Do you ever get frustrated at the long lines when trying to get through airport security, especially if you’re a frequent flier? Perhaps lobbyists feel the same way about security at the General Assembly. They’ll now have an option to buy what equates to a fast pass, similar to what you can purchase if you fly. But in this case to lobby lawmakers.
When it comes to such line items it can be hard to understand why they’re there in the first place because they lack an explanation.
“It’s hard to get context and it’s hard to get an understanding of how the government is actually working and what’s changing and what’s evolving and what’s what, what they’re doing differently. And yeah, I think we’re putting the onus on people on people,” said Billman.
But Kokai also reminds us that a lot of the pork comes down to coming through in a couple of ways.
“You go back to your community and say, hey, you know, I fought hard to get the funding for this Community Center or for this new field or for this big project that you’ve been asking about. And it wins them goodwill from their home community,” said Kokai.
“[It also] helps secure their vote for the budget,” said Billman. “The thing is right now you know Republicans obviously need every vote to overcome a veto assuming there will be a veto, even with the Medicaid expansion, I think there’s a pretty significant chance that the governor vetoes this budget. They need every vote to overcome it. So, everybody has to be happy. Everyone gets what they want.”